The Success Story of Jan Koum, WhatsApp Co-founder & Internet Entrepreneur

Jan Koum - Founder of whatsapp
Jan Koum - Founder of whatsapp

Jan Koum, a Ukrainian American internet entrepreneur, computer programmer who co-founded Whatsapp.

Jan Koum is a Ukrainian American billionaire businessperson and computer programmer. He is a co-founder & former CEO of WhatsApp, FREE messaging and video calling app.

WhatsApp is a mobile messaging application; Facebook Inc. acquired it in February 2014 for US$19.3 billion.

He entered the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans at no 62, with an estimated net worth of $7.5 billion in 2014.

That was the highest-ranked newcomer to the list that year. As of July 2021, his estimated net worth was $10.4 billion.

Jan Koum was born on 24th February 1976 in Fastiv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union. He is from Jewish origine.

He grew up in Fastiv outside Kyiv. In 1992, he moved to Mountain View, California with his mother & grandmother.

There at the age of 16, a social support program helped them to get a small two-bedroom apartment. His father never left Ukraine and he died in 1997.

Jan Koum & his mother remained in touch with his father until his death. At first, his mother worked as a babysitter & he worked as a cleaner at a grocery store.

After a long battle with cancer, his mother died in 2000. At the age of 18, he got an interest in programing. Jan enrolled at San Jose State University and simultaneously worked at Ernst & Young as a security tester.

He also joined a hacker’s group named w00w00. There he met the future founders of Napster, Shawn Fanning and Jordan Ritter.

In February 1996, a hindering order granted against Jan in state court in San Jose, California. Jan met Brian Acton while working at Ernst & Young as a security tester in 1997.

Yahoo hired him as an infrastructure engineer in 1997. He quit school thereafter. For the next nine years, Jan and Acton worked together.

Both of them left Yahoo in 2007 & took a year off, traveling around South America and playing ultimate frisbee.

They applied at Facebook but rejected. Jan bought an iPhone and realized that the then seven-month-old App Store was about to originate a completely new industry of apps in January 2009.

He & his friend Alex Fishman talked for hours about Jan’s idea for an application.  Immediately after that, they chose the name WhatsApp, as it sounds like “what’s up”.

After a week on his birthday, 24th February 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California. Initially WhatsApp was not much popular, but it became popular when Apple added push notification ability to apps in June 2009.

Jan Koum changed WhatsApp to “ping” users. Jan and Fishman’s Russian friends in the area began to use WhatsApp as a messaging tool, in place of SMS.

It gained large user base. On 9th February, Zuckerberg formally proposed Koum a deal to join the Facebook board with a dinner.

Jan Koum net worth

After 10-days, Facebook announced about the acquiring of WhatsApp for US$19 billion. In the first half of 2016, Jan sold about $2.4 billion worth of Facebook stock.

That was around half of the total holdings. Due to disputes with Facebook, in April 2018, he leaves WhatsApp & steped down from Facebook’s board of directors.

Still he was a former employee of Facebook. It was reported that his earning was around $450 million through a method called “rest & vest.”

Jan never liked to be known as entrepreneur. He feels that he is not an entrepreneur. As per Jan’s thinking, entrepreneurs are motivated by the desire to make money.

Jan Koum foundation

He wants to build useful products. Jan donated $1 million to The FreeBSD Foundation and close to $556 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) in November 2014.

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He donated another $500,000 to The FreeBSD Foundation in December 2016. It was followed by $250,000 donations in 2018 and 2019.